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The latest news and perspective from the Director of Urban Homeworks
In February I attended a conference with the Bartimaeus Institute. We focused on studying chapters 12-19 of Luke. In Luke’s Gospel, we read the themes of ‘raising up the lowly’ and ‘sending the rich away empty’. The woman in Luke 13 crippled by a spirit for 18 years, evokes memories of Israelite slavery for that same time frame. This woman not only had a physical burden like scoliosis, but she also had the spirit of marginalization and exploitation bending her over. Jesus released and re-humanized her.
Jesus reminded (harshly) the protesting religious leaders that they unbind their oxen and donkeys on Sabbath days. Jesus released her from oppression/burden/debt as those animals are released from their yokes – a political-economic analogy, usurping the inculturated norms.
I am learning more how this powerful Book speaks beyond the literal toward proverbial reflections of our systems and culture. Do you know the “bent over women” of your neighborhood, your city?
Love is why we do what we do. Relationships, exchange, transformation, recovery of sight, fruit and freedom are all dimensions of love. Love leads to light and sight.
Love is the Currency of the Kingdom. We are here to mint the currency of love because it is the only path to our liberation…it is the only path to my liberation.
When we see each other, we realize that there is no such thing as “clean” and “unclean” and that there is no “in” or “out.” We realize that “who makes the money in between”, or “who benefits” from the generation and bearing of our “fruit” is the clearest indication of whether or not we are connected to the True vine, Jesus.
My friends, if we can live like this, the world will change. It will change one child, one mom, one dad, one house, one home, one dime, one dollar, one you and one me at a time.
We can do this. We GET to do this. It will change who we are, and we will fall in love with who we become.
By our fruit we shall be known, and Love is the essence of our fruit;
It is out of love that Kingdom Justice shall spring forth and shoot;
Into branches that look just like you and just like me;
Together we shall change our worlds, we shall set each other free!
It’s funny how things change. There was something in college that compelled me to write a personal mission statement, so I scratched one down. What was written lasted until about five years ago, when it just sort of disappeared from consciousness and never returned. I happened to love that kind of assignment: a simple, inadequate, yet informative shaping statement that crystallizes and guides the courses and discourses of life. So, I rewrote one last month—I would love to hear what you think:
“My purpose is to seek shalom and to enjoy life meaningfully and well-lived for you and for me…to the delight of God.”
The idea of “shalom” is intense and robust, but a very limited description might refer to it as the active pursuit of the well-being and the flourishing of all things toward the way the world “ought to be.” Intrinsic in this pursuit is the indelible connection between me and you and the powerful exchange that happens both in my life and yours when we actively apply ourselves toward the way things “ought to be.” I think this is the essence of the HOPE that is in the Urban Homeworks mission statement. As a team, we have spent some time healing and developing our understanding of each other across race and gender lines. Why? Because the deeper the understanding and connection that we can hold and enhance within the walls of Urban Homeworks, the deeper and more profound and potent we will be as tools toward hope outside the walls of Urban Homeworks. The deeper we (we meaning all of us, across the many domains and definitions we have for each other) can strike and enhance our understanding, connections and proximity, the more hopeful we become of experiencing and becoming intoxicated by the shalom we are beginning to taste, understand, and embody.
As I look back on that mission statement from college, it’s funny how things change…
Last year at this time, I reflected for a bit about the “storms” that rolled through 2011. “Recovery” was the theme—I focused on the multiple dimensions and domains of recovery and theinextricable linkage that recovery has with redemption. I talked a little about “turning more slightly inward” as an organism of missionally-aligned people after a year of intense “outward” focus. That mission, this year, was accomplished. We did a lot of amazing, difficult work on ourselves over the 2012 year while enhancing and delivering more, as a tool of our community, than ever before.
The mission of Urban Homeworks stands firm: we shall perpetuate, and we shall innovate for the hope of Jesus… as it is being and becoming understood, which inspires in each of us the insatiable hunger to take a stand and walk in solidarity with our neighbor. For I am neighbor, and “they” are “we.” We will march on into 2013, committed to active perpetuation, not preservation…to hope, not despair…and to the innovative, creative, and committed pursuit of life more fully lived. Thank you for marching along with us. Lives are being changed, mine most significantly among them. Thank you!
Time passes with a blink of an eye, but I'd like to pause and reflect for a moment on my 13 years at Urban Homeworks. On August 16, 1999, the founder of Urban Homeworks, took a chance on me—a kid fresh off the farm—and let me come to work for the first day. I think the conversation went something like this: “Well, we don't have any cash, but we have some projects going! You might get a paycheck if we finish one of them...” The words "message received" capture what flitted through my mind.
As I look back, the one word that captures the most valuable thing I had and maybe the most valuable non-tangible thing Urban Homeworks procured, was a clear sense of commitment. I came into that first day of work with Wayne Gordon’s words ringing in my ears: “Don't even think about entering the vocation of real community development if you can't commit to at least 15 years.”
I've learned that this commitment isn't purely "stick-to-it-iveness." It's a commitment to the persistent pursuit of being a learner and student of myself, my peers and my environment. It's a commitment to curate and conjure the courage to trigger the hard work of personal and team transformation within the crucible of constant change. It's the commitment to harden the adherence to values, motivate through the lens of mission and savor the taste of the salvation of my "neighbor and myself." It’s the commitment to celebrate as the better half of compassion.
Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, writes “…faith does not look backward toward a great ancestor, but looks forward with audaciousness…” I think this means that our journey influences our trajectory, and that hope is found on the paths that have not yet been trodden. As I look back at the commitment I made that very first day at Urban Homeworks, I am filled with hope as we continue down the untrodden path ahead. Thank you for your commitment to join us on this audacious journey.